T he night of July 15, 2016 began as one of the darkest nights in Turkish political history and democracy. FETÖ, which has been infiltrating the military bureaucracy of Turkey for decades and which is antagonistic to the country’s people, parliament and all its values, attempted to seize the state control with a military coup. The attempt was repelled thanks to the courage of the Turkish people and the devotion of the military and police officers who were loyal to their land. In a world where coups can be organized as economic, psychological or societal uprisings, attempting a conventional and outdated type of military coup greatly surprised everyone. This is actually directly related to the fact that the antagonists of the ruling power had no other option for overthrowing the government.
The question “Can a coup be staged in this age?” was answered in a shocking way during the night of July 15. For a country that has 70 years of multi-party democracy and is integrated into the world economy, it was an unexpected and shocking experience to face a coup. The surprising aspect is not the attempt of intervention through anti-democratic methods, but the method and implementation of the coup. FETÖ and its international affiliates had to resort to the conventional methods of a military coup since they did not have any other option for changing the ruling power. Many times before July 15, the ruling AK Party and President Erdoğan had been under attack by various unconventional methods with the aim of being ousted from the political arena. The previous intervention attempts had been confronted with success.
The military coup was the last resort for those motivated to change the government; its failure had heavy costs for the plotters. In the current period, coups generally emerge in hybrid forms. Many countries lately have witnessed hybrid coup methods, including triggering economic crises, the organization of societal uprisings, a judicial coup as happened in Brazil, attempts at information coups through media and social media such as Wikileaks and the Panama documents, intimidating or changing governments by organizing various social conflicts such as civil wars. In some cases, these attempts form a psychological ground of legitimacy for a more comprehensive intervention. In other cases, they are enough to shape the governments as desired without requiring a government change. Preferring a military coup instead of hybrid methods of reshaping the government can be considered extraordinary within the context of the current period.
Attempts to overthrow the government before July 15
In fact, the start and preparation process of the failed coup attempt on July 15 dates back a few years. During its terms in power, the AK Party was subjected to the April 27, 2007 e-memorandum and the Dec. 17 and 26 interventions in 2013. Starting with asking then MIT Chief Hakan Fidan to give testimony on Feb. 7, 2012, the MIT crisis was the first phase of the FETÖ’s coup attempt; these attempts however were dismissed. Then a judicial coup attempt followed on Dec. 17 and 25, 2013.
With the fabricated allegations of corruption by FETÖ, a judicial coup tried to overthrow the government. The Gezi uprising that started in May 2013 was also an attempt to overthrow the government, which also laid the social and psychological grounds for the events of Dec. 17 and 25. When all attempts failed initiatives targeting entire Turkey were resorted to. With the news reports released about the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) trucks, baseless accusations were made against Turkey suggesting that Turkey abets DAESH and terrorism. Ending the reconciliation process, the outlawed PKK also engaged in efforts to rule out the ruling party. In an atmosphere where conventional coup attempt fail, from now on such methods will be employed with greater frequency.
A terrorist assault organized as a military coup
The July 15 coup attempt differs from previous hybrid coup attempts and the 1960, 1971, 1980 and Feb. 28 coups in many aspects. This latest insurrection looks like a kamikaze terror assault organized as a military coup. In military coups, the coup plotters try to seize government and state institutions by the use of force. Generally, places such as the parliament and presidential palace are not attacked since they are the symbols of national unity and solidarity. Targeting these places actually means an attack to Turkey’s national unity and solidarity. In this respect, the insurrection we confronted on July 15 resembles a terror attack or a hybrid war method targeting Turkey as a whole. Seemingly, Turkey’s unity was attacked rather than the government. It is hard to assume that an intervention directly targeting people was organized exclusively by domestic elements.
Hybrid coups and intervention methods cause many elected governments in various countries to be manipulated by internal or external forces. In recent years, Turkey has been directly targeted by hybrid coup methods and outside interventions. These interventions continue in the face of the struggle of the ruling power and its support from the people. The FETÖ-linked efforts for a coup or domination might have been repelled after the failed coup attempt; however, the arena of legitimate politics is still vulnerable to other methods. In the following periods, provocations to disturb Turkey’s peace and integrity, efforts to defame Turkey on the international arena and the risk of manipulations to spoil Turkey’s economic stability are likely to continue. It is very difficult to discard such threats only by means of state appratus and government. For this reason, the anti-coup fight can only be possible with people’s solidarity and the solidification of resistance against risks.
The greatest threat that might be posed by the organization in the aftermath of the process is that the marginalized agents of FETÖ might engage in more radical activities such as political assassinations or attacks against civilians. Another risk is the triggering of Turkey’s inner conflict dynamics with social provocations. Still, many secret spots of the organization remain unknown. We are only at the beginning of our fight against FETÖ and new institutions are needed to coordinate this complex and risky process.